Mr. Editor and my dear friend, Africa has been plagued by undemocratic institutions like the one the Gambia ousted, civil strife and war as evidenced in many countries like, Rwanda, Somalia, Horn of Africa (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia) the Congo, Uganda, Libya to name a few. In most of these countries, the precursor to the problems that led to undemocratic institutions and eventually civil strife and war, is the dictatorial tendencies of the leaders who were bent on holding on to power for posterity. Regime transition thus becomes a problem where power struggle and incessant civil conflict becomes the order of the day and lasts for so many years thereby claiming many lives in the process. Unfortunately, Africa has fallen victim to such issues for so many decades and it still permeates in many parts of continent unresolved.
The Gambia was lucky not to fall on the path of insurgency that former President Yahya Jammeh almost took us into had it not been for the intervention of West African Regional leaders. The issue now in the Gambia is that regime transition should be our priority and have read some days ago, that the former government ministers in the Jammeh government are cooperating with the Barrow government to ensure a smooth transition. This move will ultimately lead to the democratization of the Gambian political institutions. There will be challenges though because good governance during the Jammeh regime was alien to him and those that supported him to perpetuate all the ills he had done in 22 years. Whether those people are still in the Gambia and part of the team working with the Barrow transition remains to be answered.
Undoubtedly, going by media reports, the appointment of Halifa Sallah as Barrow’s adviser on governance will not only foster a smooth transition to democracy but it will also ensure that civil society plays its role as a yardstick for development initiatives. The Gambia needs aid money to support the civil society because they work directly with the people and have firsthand knowledge about the political and socio-economic lives of such people. We have seen in the last couple of days the influx of aid from major donors and this is one of the best ways we can support the democratic process. Gambians obviously know that aid money was not coming into the Gambia for the most part during Yahya Jammeh’s rule because of bad governance and to put Halifa Sallah on the helm of affairs in relation to governance is a step in the right direction.
That being said, what will be difficult during the transition is for people to forget the ills Yahya Jammeh left on Gambian families. Those that lost a loved one during the brutal rule of Yahya Jammeh will be yearning for justice and there is nothing wrong in that and it will not derail the transition in any way. Thus, truth and reconciliation should be part of Halifa Sallah’s task to ensure we get the answers required. The onus is therefore on the Barrow government on one hand to ensure that good governance prevails during the transition and on the other hand to also ensure that those that need answers as to the whereabouts of loved ones are accommodated. The bloodbath Yahya Jammeh left in the Gambia still stinks.
Today, a new Gambia is born, a new Gambia where people can demonstrate without the fear of being whisked in jail and unlawfully detained for indefinite periods or even die in the process. Every Gambian should be proud of our government and hope that the transition will usher in democracy that will wipe out the bloodbath of Yaya Jammeh’s regime. I can confidently state that the Gambia is now part of the new generation of African states because we no longer belong to a regime that ruled by the gun and has no development initiative. There must be an alternative paradigm for development in the Gambia now and therefore civil society as I mentioned earlier should be focal in transmitting development initiatives to the Gambian people.
Written by: Ebou Ngum – Everett Washington